James Cameron’s “Aliens” has the distinction of not only being one of the best science fiction movies of all time but also one of the best sequels ever made. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this movie since its 1986 release, but I’m sure it rivals any other. So in light of my affection for this film I thought it deserved a Phenomenal 5 spotlight. Now obviously I feel there are many things to love about this film so I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but these five things about the movie “Aliens” are most certainly phenomenal.
#5 – The Ventilation Shaft Sequence
There are so many memorable scenes in “Aliens” and one my favorites is the great escape through the ventilation shafts. The creatures have made it through our survivors’ defenses and their last hope of escape are a long series of ventilation shafts that run out to the landing field. The bad thing is the aliens follow them in leading to a cramped and claustrophobic fight for survival. Cameron’s strategic camera adds an incredible degree of intensity to the sequence and James Horner’s pulse-pounding score amps up the tension. It’s a great scene with great edge-of-your-seat action.
#4 – Bishop
There is an assortment of cool characters in “Aliens” and one of my favorites is Bishop. He is a new model android that serves on the spaceship Sulaco. He accompanies Ripley and the marines as they investigate the lost communication with a colony. Lance Henriksen is perfect for the role. He constantly maintains a steady tone even when things quickly turn bad and he shines in every one of his scenes. And who can forget the part he plays in the final third of the film. There are many characters to love in “Aliens” and Bishop is one of the best.
#3 – The Colonial Marines
I remember as a young teen thinking that the Colonial Marines in “Aliens” were incredibly cool. Guess what, I still do. Sure they dabble in an assortment of stereotypes, but they still feature a variety of fun characters many of which offer some good depth. We see these layers peeled back when they realize the weight of the threat they face. Michael Biehn is fantastic as Corporal Hicks. Bill Paxton is perfect as the neurotic Hudson. I love Jenette Goldstein as the tough-as-nails private Vazquez. Apone, Gorman, Drake, Frost, etc. I love them all and each adds to the movie in their own way.
#2 – The First Encounter
There are a few movie sequences that I have watched so many times that I have them committed to memory. One of them is the first encounter between the Colonial Marines and the aliens. After tracking missing colonists to underneath a processing station, the marines are broadsided by a vicious and frightening attack. The buildup to the first encounter is dripping with tension. The costly firefight and the desperate escape that follows is exhilarating stuff. The entire sequence helps to open up and define the characters and their situation, and it remains one of my favorite science fiction movie scenes of all time.
#1 – Ellen Ripley
It’s unfortunate that we don’t get more strong and dynamic female movie characters like Ellen Ripley. She showed her toughness in the first “Alien” picture, but it’s in the sequel that we see her grittiness and resolve on an entire new level. Ripley is dismissed at first by the macho Colonial Marines. But it doesn’t take long for her to show her strengths and she can dish it out with any of them. Sigourney Weaver mixes a tender motherly instinct with a hard-nosed will to live resulting in what I think is one of the best female leads ever put on screen.
So there you have it. Those are my five phenomenal things about the movie “Aliens”. So what do you think about them? See something I missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this list and the movie in the comments section below.